After the long debate with the USA leaders there was suggestion of Mr.
Ahtisaari, President of Finland, and Mrs. Albright asked me: "Are you agree
about Mr. Ahtisaari?" Of course I was agree. Actually I was agree about anyone
else. But Ahtisaari was very convenient to me: we are neighbors, he is charming
person, good politician and it was a pleasure to work with him. I was very
delighted that this person was he.
You had discussion for many hours with them trying to convince them to solve
the Kosovo crisis. Could you tell more in detail? Were you arguing?
If we were agreed we wouldn't be sitting at the table for long hours and
nights. Of course, there was disagreement and we had hot debates. We were
convincing each other what decision has to be made. Main disagreement was
between Mr. Talbott and me. . . . It wasn't simple at all. That's why I
stressed that both sides settled by compromise in solving Kosovo crisis but not
Milosevic only. If the question was just to make Milosevic capitulate, there
would be no need for Chernomyrdin or Russia to be a peacemaker. The West
counted that they could persuade Milosevic to give up. But Milosevic didn't. He
would never do that. That's why I brought him around giving an explanation,
adducing the facts, why and what have happened, what will happen if he
continues persistence and what will be left from Yugoslavia. Can you imagine
how uneasy was the discussion for 8, 9 hours? He would jump up, tear the
papers, thrust them, go out and come back again. It was hard.
Then I talked to USA group convincing them what they have to undertake to stop
the war. It was very complicated. . . .
Is it true story that you pointed at empty chair and said, "Let's imagine
Milosevic in this room and sitting on it."
Yes, it is. I even said them to take a plane to see Milosevic and to convince
him. It's me who met Milosevic, but not they. I don't need to be convinced.
Neither Russia nor me is a participant of war. This is me who had to convince
both sides in what will be happen if they wouldn't stop it. I said, "Please
imagine Milosevic is here in. Let's propose him to give up." He would never do
it. He understands his position as well. He can just pick up a phone and call
to any president to say, "I accept it." I told them, "Let's go there." But
nobody did! Only when papers were ready and I had convinced Milosevic, Mr.
Ahtisaari flied to Belgrade with me.
What was difficult issue of all the conditions to persuade
I think the most difficulty was that Milosevic considered that NATO was an
aggressor and murderer. They were killing civilians, innocent people. He was
confident that he didn't do anything wrong with Kosovo. He always said that. So
when we agreed on the set of conditions, he was afraid. He said, "I don't
believe Western Alliance. They wouldn't carry out. I just can't believe. They
will occupy Kosovo and drive away Serbs entirely." I told him, "That's why
there was condition about presence of Russian troops in regulation there. USA
and NATO agreed with it." We, as a participant of agreement, were a guarantor
as well. We are not taking part in this war but have to send our troops. What
better guarantee might be else? They wouldn't fight with Russia, of course. It
was the most difficult decision for him and he thought about very hard.
They tried to persuade me to affect on Milosevic to give up. It is useless. I
always said, "Then you can work with Milosevic without me. If you want to
persuade Milosevic you have to convince me first." . . . That's why there were
such long discussions with Mr. Talbott and other USA leaders. Nobody wanted to
be a loser in this war. Everybody wanted to be a winner, Milosevic in
particular. How they could justify themselves before own nation?.
Could you tell us the story from the point of Petersburg to Belgrade, to
I worked out with Milosevic the first set of conditions, which consisted from
eight paragraphs at the very beginning. It was set how Milosevic saw situation
how I was agree with the scheme about which we could talk. And in Bonn, after
my four visits to Belgrade and long discussions, Mr. Talbott, Mr. Ahtisaari and
me spent whole night in this palace. I went to sleep at four or five AM but
they stayed until morning. There was extreme tension. Mr. Ahtisaari was very
active this time because he was well informed. He knew we have to fly only with
those practical conditions that will satisfy Western Alliance and convince
Milosevic. It was the most difficult moment. There was a question: should we
fly to Belgrade. I could not go. What for? I knew Milosevic what he would
accept, what he would never.
We worked throughout night. In the morning spent few hours again to polish the
final document and flew off to Belgrade. Mr. Milosevic called all his army
officers, officials where we introduced those conditions. Ahtisaari read
through eight paragraphs. Milosevic asked to think it out and said he will take
the document into the parliament tomorrow and give a result after. We agreed. I
stayed there in Belgrade. I've heard Ahtisaari flew off to Budapest. I'm not
sure about this. Recently friend of mine told me it. I even didn't know.
We assembled next day again. Milosevic discussed with me once more. I told
Milosevic before, "Slobodan Milosevic, try to work out the document. You will
discuss in the government and parliament. If you are not agreed with some
points you can write it down as a request and supplement it. When SC will
discuss this resolution they will study your request."
In the morning there was parliament assembly for about two hours in Belgrade.
Parliament adopted the conditions without any statement. I was surprised very
much. Why there wasn't any statement or request? I didn't expect it, but it was
like that. Either Milosevic or government were agreed with the set of
conditions we worked on so hard.
Was it difficult for Milosevic to accept the paragraph that contained
stipulation that all troops will be withdrawn from Kosovo?
It was very important moment when Milosevic agreed with the withdrawing all
troops. There was a term of 7 or 8 days. They asked more but we agreed on eight
and if there will be need we could prolong it. But Milosevic put a question,
"Stop bombing." Mr. Talbott doesn't agree with the stopping bombing and wants
to carry on but the same time he wants to withdraw troops. There is no logic.
So I had to persuade Americans that it can't be like that. They have to stop
bombing and Milosevic will withdraw troops. It took me enough time to
When you returned to Russia you faced personal criticism from Russian
people. How do you feel it?
I know who were shouting it, where from was it. It was from the left
opposition. In reality they wanted something else. I don't care about it at
all. I understand them. But it hurt me when some of officials did so. Their
action was incomprehensible. Anyway, it wasn't important indeed. The most
important was that we could prevent the third world war. Nobody can realize it
yet. We, Russians, could be there. Actually the process was advancing this way.
Belgrade extremely wanted Russia to join them. There were too people in Russia
who wanted to fight for Serbs. We had such experience previously once in this
century. Russians who have common sense understand it what does it mean to
fight for Serbs this way. Of course we are not against Serbs or humiliating or
hurting them. Just we are absolutely against that kind of conflict that has
ethnical or national base. And I'm happy we stopped this crisis, this war.
how it was fought .
ethnic cleansing .
fighting for morals .
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